Your questions... answered!
by Rob Leigh-Bramwell
Where can I seek help for my own product development idea?
You don’t have to be a crazy inventor to know that product (or service) design ideas are fun to think up! Being from a non-design background, at Bramwell Brown we discovered that the very first step of developing the idea into a product is possibly the trickiest part. This is because poor advice initially can send you off on a tangent that won’t work. So seek out unbiased and experienced advice early on! We’d really recommend initial meetings with design consultants who will always meet you, informally or formally, to discuss your idea or invention. Even just Googling “product design consultants” in your area and you’ll likely find several who would be happy to give you time for free, so you can start your journey. If you’re worried about confidentiality then you could ask the consultancy firm to sign a ‘non-disclosure’ agreement, but in reality, well known or reputable UK-based design consultants will be especially professional when it comes to confidentiality.
I’m worried someone is going to steal and copy my idea – what can I do?
This is certainly a tricky one. The answer completely depends on how protectable your idea is through the various national and international legal frameworks. Patents (for products or process), Design Rights (for the visual design of objects) and Copyrights and Trademarks can all be considered depending on your idea or invention. Whilst taking good advice on the possibility of protection can help massively, make sure the advice you receive is expert (though not necessarily vastly expensive) as huge effort (and cost) can be made on protection that can then be easily side-stepped by a copy-cat. A top tip would be to find a design company that often reviews and/or copies similar designs legally and get them working for you! Secondly, don’t forget to consider other forms of defence that come more from your business strategy – such as 'first-mover advantage'!
How can I develop my product on a shoe-string budget?
Design development is a phased process that starts with reviewing the feasibility of your idea. You needn’t spend much money in order to check whether your idea might be commercially viable. In fact, it’s not just that you need to check that the product is possible to design and manufacture but that it 100% suits the target market. Many people rush into developing a solution to a problem and realise that it was just their problem or their small group of friends’ problem rather than the wider population. Small tweaks early on to design of the concept can be the difference between success and failure. Have a read of the concept of ‘Design Thinking’ if you want to do well in this process. There’s a book by the legendary designer Tim Brown or a ton of information on the internet.
How do I go about finding a manufacturer in China?!
Hold your horses, cowboy! It’s not always correct to assume that making things in the Far-East is the best course. Making things in the UK (or Europe), especially at smaller volumes is nearly always worth considering. The reason for this is that you’ll be way more in control of the process if there’s no language barrier and huge distance between you and your stock. Making small runs in the UK with a local manufacturing company can help you test the market before increasing your volumes (and financial requirements). If you can’t find suitable makers of parts in the UK or Europe (through Googling and asking industry trade bodies or business mentors) then having someone with a little black book of contacts in the Far-East to help you go out to tender on parts orders is the next step.
Most importantly Good Luck! We hope you’ve found these answers both interesting and informative and look forward to hearing about the success of your product development ideas.